More than 250 Haitians and overseas church representatives, including the president of Episcopal Relief and Development, officially opened the Bishop Tharp Business and Technology Institute on April 2 in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Classes at the school began last September, providing university-level training in business management, computer technology, statistics and English. It is named after the late Robert G. Tharp, former bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee, who was chair of the board of ERD and a friend of the Diocese of Haiti.
“The idea of a Diocese of Haiti/ERD partnership focusing on post-secondary business education began in 1999,” said Robert Radtke, president of ERD. “Bishop [John Zache] Duracin [of Haiti], ERD board members, Episcopal lay leaders with mission involvements in southwest Haiti and staff began to discuss ways to use resources to invest in an education strategy that drew on local community support and involvement, church presence and a commitment to practical read world training and skill-building.
“Today, BTI is educating 180 students who will soon be business managers and owners, helping to stimulate the local Les Cayes economy,” he said. The bishop of Haiti and clergy consecrated the five classrooms, computer laboratory, future library and administration building.
Rita Redfield of Maine, a former member of ERD and Executive Council, read a message from Ann Tharp, the bishop’s widow: “If Bishop Tharp were here today, he would challenge your sense of adventure and he would share with you his conviction that life is a holy dance.”
Ultimately, the institute will create a pool of skilled workers equipped to start their own businesses or join the local workforce in Les Cayes, Haiti’s third largest city.